Small but well formed

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Shirley Spick used to do calf club at school, but her passion for Dexter cattle, A&P; Shows and championship ribbons didn't kick in until she retired.

Now an advocate for the breed, she says she was originally attracted to their quiet nature and miniature stature.

"I started out as a spectator and first noticed them at the Te Puke A&P; show. I immediately thought, 'I'd like one of those,' and eventually got one."

Fast-forward seven years and Spick is a member of the Dexter Cattle Society and a regular competitor on the central North Island show circuit scene.

When the Bay of Plenty Times visits Spick at her Pongakawa lifestyle block, she is in the paddock with Gus, a black, burly 9-month-old bull.

He is being put through his paces under her guidance.

"They are very manageable and intelligent, you know," she quips as Gus walks obediently around in a circle on the lead. He doesn't flinch when his knees are bent backwards for a foot inspection, although he is inclined to head-nudging.

"Stop it, Gus, and behave. You know, his latest trick is digging holes, but I'll soon get him out of that."

Husband Michael likes to help out but jokingly says Shirley does all the work and, if he's lucky, he'll get to enjoy a beer at the show.

The duo hitch up their horse float to the campervan and attend about seven shows a year. They have won 46 ribbons and several championship awards, including Champion Dexter for Donna, a prize heifer. Gus (bred from Donna) has been a champion bull calf.

Shirley says Dexter cattle are ideal for shows because they are intelligent and easy to train. Before an event, they are brushed and shampooed to accentuate their coats. They love being washed, Shirley says.

But it is the camaraderie of meeting other enthusiasts that has turned the pastime into an enjoyable hobby .

"We've made a lot of friends and it is great fun," she says.

"I think, for me, the best part of these shows is children also get to see animals up close."

It's a small enterprise, the Willow Haze Dexter Stud. At the moment just four cattle are on the Spicks' property - but each one of them is a valued pet.

"Yes, you can eat them," Shirley says. "Their meat is considered to be tender because it has a marbled texture, but we don't do that here," she says with a laugh.

Dexter cattle originate from Ireland and are the smallest of the European breeds, with cows weighing 270kg to 320kg, while mature bulls tip the scales at about 450kg.

- Hamilton News

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